This year the majority of the captive Spoonies will be eight years old. Being generation zero of the captive population (the first Spoon-billed Sandpipers to be brought into captivity) you could consider this quite an achievement, for the birds and for the staff caring for them. Over the last few months we have been treating them with extra care and kindness to get them through the UK winter conditions.
Winter time also allows us to clean and refresh parts of the facility used in the breeding season. In the breeding aviaries we’ve added some fresh turf and removed some old, avoiding places males previously scraped or any other suitable nesting areas. The heather and grasses we planted last year are well established now really giving the aviaries some diversity and the birds’ large shaded areas of cover. A new addition this year are dry dwarf willow leaves, scattered strategically around the aviaries. These were very kindly collected in Scotland by Ian and Carole Bainbridge. Spoonies line their nest cups with materials from the surrounding habitat. Much of that habitat in Meino is covered in dwarf willow. So we will see what the captive Spoonies make of them!
As for infrastructure, the misting system has been cleaned and is in full use again, the birds have very much enjoyed the cool showers on the hot days we’ve already seen of April. The ponds have been scrubbed and the refilled with fresh sand banks and water circulating throughout the breeding aviaries. Yet again this year we had to replace a lot of netting. The wave of storms we saw this winter damaged much of the inner linings of the facility, fortunately we are well practiced at sewing now and got the majority done quickly!
The biggest change to the facility this year was the replacement of the plastic sheets covering the polytunnels. Instead of replacing it entirely with plastic this time we decided to use 50:50 plastic and nylon mesh. This allows more direct sunlight into the aviaries benefitting the birds and aviaries, and at the same time allows the problematic hot air to escape. A big thanks for Northern Polytunnels for doing this, and so quickly for us!
We moved the Spoonies to their breeding aviaries on the 25th March.
As for everyone in the UK the Coronavirus has hit us hard. Fortunately we were able to prep aviaries and move birds, across the whole of the Conservation Breeding Unit, in time for lockdown the furloughing of staff. Allowing birds to go through natural cycles such as pairing up and breeding is incredibly important for the welfare of captive birds. Even now there is little that will stop this dedicated team!
Stay tuned for more updates! We’ll be telling you a little about the chick’s (hatched in 2019) progress next time.